Any experience or job in your life can make a great essay! This student wrote about interacting with various characters at her job at a drive-thru window and how that helped form portals to other peoples’ worlds outside of her own.
The drive-thru monitor on the wall quietly clicks whenever a person pulls up to the menu screen. It’s so subtle I didn’t notice it my first two months working at Freddy’s, the retro fast-food restaurant looming over Fairfax’s clogged stretch of Route 50. But, after months of giving out greasy burgers, I have become attuned to it. Now, from the cacophony of kitchen clangs I can easily pick out that click which transports me from my world of fry oil into the lives of those waiting in the drive-thru.
A languid male voice drifts into my ear. He orders tenders, with a side of cheese sauce. “How much cheese sauce is in a cup?” he frets, concerned over the associated 80 cent charge. The answer is two ounces, and he is right to worry. It’s a rip-off.
After I answer him, my headset goes quiet for a second. Finally, his voice crackles through.
“Do you sell cheese sauce by the gallon?”
A man orders two steakburgers and two pints of custard.
Minutes later, he reaches my window. I lean out to take his credit card, only to meet the warm tongue of a wizened dog.
The man apologizes: “She just loves your restaurant.”
I look at the dog, her nose stretching out of the car and resting on the window ledge, then look at the order he had given me.
Once I hand him his food, the dog sniffs one of the pints.
“No!” he reprimands. “Only after you eat your dinner.”
He sets a burger between her paws, then speeds away.
I can’t understand the order, but I know that whoever is speaking is from New Jersey. Tommy, pronounced “Tahmee”, apparently has high blood pressure. He orders fries.
“No!” the woman screeches. “No salt!”
They pull up to the window. The man, clad in a Hawaiian shirt, thrusts a crumpled wad of cash in my hand.
The women pushes him back. “Sorry!” she apologizes, “But we’re lost! Never been to Virginia before - we’re trying to find Lynchburg!”
It is 10:45 PM, and Lynchburg is three hours away. We give them an extra side of fries (no salt of course) and directions to a nearby hotel.
For these brief moments, I am part of their lives: in their cars, they are at home. They are surrounded by their trash and listening to their music, dancing with their friends and crying alone, oblivious to the stranger taking their order. On the surface, these people are wildly different; they range from babies clad in Dolphin’s jerseys (“Her first pre-game party!”) to grandmothers out for ladies’ night; college students looking for a cheese sauce fix to parents on a dieting kick (“Chicken sandwich on a lettuce wrap”). But, despite every contrasting characteristic, they all ended up in the same place: my drive-thru, my portal to their worlds.
*Click* It’s a family, squished into a little car. When I hand them their bags, they happily open them and devour the food. The mother asks me for extra napkins, forks, and knives.
“We just moved,” she explains. “And everything is still in boxes.”
I moved a lot as a child, so I know what they’re going through. I give them an entire pack of utensils.
As the car leaves, the kids in the backseat press their faces against the car window and wave. I wave back as the car slowly makes it way toward 50. New to the area, they have yet to adopt the hurried rush that comes with the proximity to DC.
Customers like these help me realize I am not just a passive traveller in this drive-thru - I do not just watch and observe. I laugh and I help and I talk with them, if only for a few moments. They tell me about their lives, and I mention stories from mine. Over my hundreds of hours behind the drive-thru window, thousands of different people have come through, sharing snippets of their diverse lives. All they have in common when they come in is the desire for greasy fast food. However, by the time they leave, they share something else: a nugget of my life.
The drive-thru portal takes me to disparate places; to Lynchburg, to the grocery store to buy cheese sauce, to a new home filled with opportunity and cardboard boxes. It transports me back to my room, where I hug my dog and feed her chicken and treats. It is a portal to the world, hidden in the corner of a fast-food kitchen.
With each click, that door opens. (764)
College application essay questions can be weird. Students’ answers? They can be weirder. Some people have a way of turning the simplest questions into unexpected essay answers. That’s called creativity. In most cases, it works.
Admission essays should never be boring. To make it impressive, you have to think of an unusual answer to the question hundreds of other students are answering. Let’s go through few weird admission essays that worked, shall we?
Benjamin’s 20 Questions Essay
At its official website, Johns Hopkins University published the top 5 admissions essays from the class of 2012. The one that’s featured first is also the weirdest one. Benjamin answers unusual questions, such as these:
- Is it bigger than a breadbox?
- Does it strive to learn?
- Is it driven?
- Does it think deeply?
All answers are yes, along a brief explanation of the answer. He is talking about himself as the it—a student with versatile interests and strong determination to grow. The admission committee? Impressed.
Josh Mahoney’s Essay about Football… And Law
This essay is featured at the website of University of Chicago Law School. At first, it seems pretty standard: Josh is talking about a passion – football. Then you wonder: wait, isn’t this an application essay for law school? What’s with the football?
Well, Josh writes about his injury; the moment that pushed him towards exploring other aspects of life. His intellect, mainly. Finally, we see why he decided to apply to law school. He connects college football, passions, weaknesses, and solutions into a single decision: entering law school to become a stronger person.
Although the essay seems disoriented and irrelevant at first, you can’t stop reading it. It’s one of the rare cases when a too long introduction to the point does work.
Joseph Poirier’s Common App Personal Essay
“When problems arise, I solve them using copper fittings.”
That’s how this essay starts. Joseph explains his fascination with copper during childhood. Then, he talks about his failures. Then, he returned to his primal interest: copper. Failures and copper, failures and copper… is that what this essay is all about? No. Somewhere along the way, you realize it’s about learning to grow from failure.
Although it’s an unusual personal statement, to say the least, it worked for the admissions board at Tufts University. In fact, it’s featured at the website as one of the best ones.
Ahmad Ashraf’s Application Essay for Connecticut College
“Mum, I’m gay.”
That’s how the essay starts. It’s bold. It’s weirdly brave. Also, what’s with the mum? What’s informal language doing in an admissions essay?
This essay defies rules. It’s exactly why it works.
Nathaniel Colburn’s Essay about the Homeless Lady
This one is featured at the website of Hamilton College. When you’re asked to write a personal story about a defining moment, the last thought of your mind is the memory of a homeless person. Well, that’s exactly what Nathaniel thought of.
A homeless person changed his point of view. He explained that moment beautifully in this application essay.
Ahmed’s #BlackLivesMatter Essay
This has to be the weirdest one. Ziad Ahmed got into Stanford with an application essay that wasn’t an essay at all. He said he didn’t think he’d be admitted to Stanford. It looks like he wasn’t even trying. To the prompt What matters to you, and why? Ahmed wrote nothing but the hashtag, 100 times.
It worked. For Stanford!
Brenden’s Essay that Got Him into Yale, Columbia, MIT, and University of Virginia
Wow! Is it possible to get into so many first-class universities with a single essay? It’s almost impossible, but Brenden Rodriquez did it. What’s the essay about? Music and math.
The sentences are long. The paragraphs are long. The entire essay goes against the simplicity tips you get from any writing guide. That’s why it’s unusual. The difference is that this student can write long sentences. Although the essay has chunky paragraphs, the reader’s attention is not lost. Plus, he talks about math being present in music. And football. How cool is that?
Before you start the process of creating an admissions essay, you should first read some successful examples. What did you notice about the ones we featured above? They were weird, weren’t they? Being unusual works sometimes. It’s always good to be brave. However, you have to find the good weird way to write the admissions essay.